My Time at the Music House. 


Setting Up. Back in the Pocket.

This is a story (Saga, now, really, at this point. Saga? Maybe that’s a little too much. It was a three day weekend. “Saga” is a more apt term for how long it’s taking me to complete writing this and posting it. Maybe Odyssey is more appropriate, but without all that pesky “hexameter-“epic-poem stuff) of self-discovery, of being wronged, and realizing that you yourself were wrong, of forgiveness, of healing, of honesty, of acceptance, of letting go, of enlightenment, and finally realizing who you are and what your true purpose in life is – and, of course, rock and roll.
All of this is true.

All of this really happened.

This segment of My Time at the Music House contains graphic descriptions of drum kit set-ups, some technical jargon, some imprecise musical vocabulary terms – since I am neither a classically-trained musician nor am I guitarist, and scenes of descriptive, graphic consensual musical interplay among three grown men.


Gathered the sheets. Folded them up. Stacked them. Air bed lifted up.

Some of that beautiful furniture was arranged at an angle, not tucked, aligned corner to corner. I pushed it flush against the wall then I pushed it towards the front door, opening up the floor space, allowing myself as much room for my kit as possible.

Marce had told me not to bring my whole kit. The house was small which made the living room (our recording/jamming space) small. But there was no way I was going to simply take a basic set-up. This is Ryan we’re talking about here. Ryan Fucking Mitchell. Even Marce’s solo pieces, which I had played with him before, called for my whole drum kit – including all my percussion instruments.

I mean, the last time I played with the pair of them, I sucked, terribly. Of course, I was around seventeen-eighteen then. I had barely just got my hands on a kit, and I hadn’t really had practiced on one for the first seventeen-eighteen years of my life. And during my time living in the valley for close to twenty years, I had no drum kit – and it killed me.

My new drum kit, a Pearl Forum Series, I purchased in 2006. It was a floor model, but it was in top condition, and a steal at $500. Just recently, over the last five years, I was able to invest in additions and upgrades to it.

I wanted to be ready and able to paint with every tool I had at my disposal when the three of us finally got together to jam.

It sucks being a drummer.

When you’re a guitarist, you really don’t have much to set up. You have your axe, the case it comes in, your strap, your amp, and if you’re into it, then you have your pedals.

That’s it.

But a drummer, that’s a whole other beast entirely. I have a five-piece drum set, which means I have a bass drum, two tom-tom drums mounted on top of the bass, a floor tom, and a collection of different snare drums. I have a set of double bass drum beater pedals with wooden custom-made Low-Boy beaters, which I love. I have high-hats, two crash symbols, a ride with a nice amount of wash, a hybrid ride, and a holey China symbol – all along with their stands. I also have three splash symbols, a pitch block, a small timbale, and an Alo bell. That’s my kit.

Then there’s my percussion: a cajón, bongo cajón, claves, tambourine, foot tambourine, shaker, maracas, and sleigh bells.

I was ready.

So, after moving the furniture, I took my meds, had a quick breakfast, and commenced with setting up.

As I was doing so, Ryan arrived.

He came in, looking washed out with his pale skin, off-white t-shirt, olive-gray baseball cap, and olive-gray shorts.

Time is funny, and cruel – and often both at the same time. Not so with the three of us. At least, not so much. While Marce and I lost our hair (I had won that race pretty early on. Yay me.) Ryan, of course, still has his full head of beautiful blonde locks, a bit of a grayish tinge to them, but it definitely adds a bit of a dignified look – and I suspect, has always been the source of his musical genius. Slight wrinkles like the rest of us, but aside from that, he looks just as be did in high school, his blue eyes glinting as they always did with equal parts intelligence and humor.

We hug. Examine ourselves briefly, taking about the same time to catch up.

I’m halfway done setting up, so I hurriedly get about getting back to it, trying to talk and set up at the same time, which proves difficult for me to do, since I didn’t get enough sleep, which makes it a bit harder to concentrate – even with my ADHD medication.

So I basically shut up and focus on the task at hand while Marce and Ryan tune up and review the riffs they worked on yesterday afternoon when I was supposed to be there. A tightening of a screw here, an adjustment of a symbol stand there, a quick tuning of my drum heads and it’s away we go.

I wondered how it would be playing with Marce again. Had what I told him, how I felt about him, severely damaged or severed completely our connection?

But then they started off the riff, and, with a breath, I just stepped right into the pocket

Pure joy fills me as I lay down the beat, leaving nothing back, punching it hard and sharp and trying to keep the tempo tight.

I don’t play light and soft. I love jazz drumming, but I’m not a jazz drummer. Neither am I a speed freak death metal slasher. I’m naturally a feel/groove player in the mold of the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts. I have strong wrists and ankles, though I usually do punch the kick (bass) drum with the force of lifting my knee up and down.

I’m definitely not the most skilled drummer – not even in Laredo, TX, my hometown. I don’t play perfect. As with everything else that I loved to do, all my passions or fascination or talents, a swirling, mercurial, muddied mix of my ADHD and my Depression never allowed me to follow through on any consistent practice. I did what everyone else with a mental illness or cognitive impairment, I did the best I could with what I have. And what I have is passion, feeling, emotion – I have my heart, and I use it as I use it in my writing, in my teaching. That’s what I bring to the Music. Passion and joy – like the best parts of my father.

Of course, constant playing in the band a group of friends has formed since 2010 has built up my skill level. And now that I am medicated, I have begun to practice more regularly, so, little by little.

But I just let loose, reading Marce, feeling in sync with him, anticipating the changes, while finally adding my own contributions – playing with time signatures and off-time fills, speeding up the tempo, slowing it down.

We were on fire. The energy was there. The connection between us had never left. It was just waiting for the three of us to finally get back into one room.

And before we knew it, we were done.

Ryan had to do some work, so before he had to leave, we walked over to a local neighborhood Mexican restaurant.

We talked more and ate plenty. So we walked back and Ryan went home.

We rested, and then Marce called his brothers.

And that’s when things got wild.

Next week (pinky promise):

Old, Good Friends. Brothers. Reunions and Revels.

My Time at The Music House. 

It wasn’t just music that we were going to make, but magic. This was a ritual of reconnection. The resetting of a bond that had lain cracked and fallow in many ways for over twenty years.


I drove in to Austin just to go to sleep.

I arrived exactly twelve hours after Marce’s text. It was 2:00am – just a bit later than scheduled.

I found the house fast, thanks to Google Maps and its location – South Austin, a mile or two towards West Austin, right off 35.

I had to park and do reconnaissance. I wasn’t sure of the house’s exact location, so using the walking directions, I walked until I found the correct address. Marce had texted that he had left the door unlocked.

I opened the door and entered.

The smell of old wood floors and plaster comforted my road weary body as it filled my nose.I love the smell of old homes. It reminds me of grandparents’ home in San Antonio. 

An inflatable air mattress, laid out and prepared with a pillow and blanket, greeted me in the middle of the small living room, to my direct right. On the left, amps and guitars were lined up along the wall that separated the living room from the kitchen.

I began to unload my kit in as few trips as and, as quietly as I could. I wanted to do it quickly, but my preparations for the trip had hindered my plans. I finally had completed buying carrying cases for each piece of my drum set, so I could only take in so many at time.

I didn’t want to risk doing the “Shopping Bag Thing” and carrying all of it at once, then dropping something or putting a dent either in the wall or one of my drums. So it was back and forth and back and forth, but silent and steady was going to be a problem.

Anticipating the probability of rain, I wore my chunky hiking boots. Muted – but audible thuds were the best my weary body could do after three hours on the road and all the events previous to that.

The continuous and uninterrupted sound of snoring in the next room allayed my fears of waking anyone up. Marce snores. Go figure.

I stacked my kit in the corner of the kitchen, beside the fridge where Marce had told me there’d be space. Then I brought in all my percussion gear and set it, as compactly and organized as I could beside Marce and Ryan’s amps along the wall dividing kitchen from living room.

Last, I brought in my duffle bag and my satchel that held all my writing and sketching gear.

I have this thing when I travel where I have to take out all of my gear and lay it out around and beside me just so: plug in my charger and charge my phone, lay out my keys and wallet, take out the novel I’m reading, as well as my writing journal, my sketch pad, along with pen and pencils.

Once that’s set, I feel at ease and a sense of security. Then I can take my meds and get ready for bed.

I couldn’t help but be aware that everything I had done that whole day up to this point had a sense of ritual about it – even me not rushing and going slow about all my travel preparations. But it was exactly that.

For me, even though this was a weekend jam session, it was a spiritual experience. Bob Batey’s death changed all that. I was, again, acutely aware of the Hand of the Divine at work, and I had to pay it the reverence of ritual.

It wasn’t just music that we were going to make, but magic. This was a ritual of reconnection. The resetting of a bond that had lain cracked and fallow in many ways for over twenty years.

There was the fact that I had to make amends with Marce.

I needed to make music to honor the passing of Batey.

And I needed to make music to attain a level of spirituality that I know I needed to set myself right.

But the house – the house was so cool – and not temperature-wise, it had a cool vibe. I had to look around first.

I took pictures immediately to document my journey. I posted many of them on Instagram that first night.

The living room and kitchen were both of equal proportion and both equally small – but cozy. All the furniture was late sixties/early seventies retro: wood grain speakers stacked on a an end table, a long wooden bench-style kitchen table, aluminum and red plastic diner chairs, vintage speakers and amps used as decoration, black and white pictures of Paul McCartney, Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen covered the walls, vintage posters of Rio de Janeiro Carnivale posters plastered on the fridge. The place was perfect.

There was magic to be made. And if there was magic to be made, this was the place to make it.

I changed, settled into bed, read a little, wrote a little, and drew a little, then before I knew it, sleep took.

I awoke to a room flush with pure bright sunlight. The sounds of Marce shuffling around in the kitchen and the bedroom as he made coffee.

There was nothing for it. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I had to get up.

It was time to see what the day had in store.
Next: Setting up. Back in the pocket. Old, good friends, old, good brothers. Reunions and Revels.

My Time at the Music House. Part 2.

UHS CoolGuy BreezewayPic


I got three calls the night after my father passed away:

One from my ex-wife.

One from my ex-girlfriend.

One from Marce.

They weren’t good.

I don’t know, but the day after your father passes away, you do kind of expect a certain type of call. You know, condolences, I’m really sorry and all that. These weren’t like that

My ex-wife called me. Her voice sounded rough. Poor thing, she’d been going through a rough patch. By her breath-catchy heaving tone I knew that she had been crying.  “I know you’re dad just died, but I’m having problems with __________ again, and I was wondering …” Okay, Things happen, I thought. I told her it was kind of a bad time. I tried my best to listen.

About an hour later, my ex-girlfriend called me. She asked me how I was, how I was doing, how she felt bad, but then her tone made an abrupt one-eighty from caring to sharp and accusatory. She brought up a girl who wasn’t even a friend of my mine and said “ … so those are the types of girls you like, right?”

My friend from high school, Marcelino, or Marce, sent me a private message via Facebook Messenger that wasn’t so private.

That was enough.

It was like a perverse inversion of the Ebenezer Scrooge tale.

You see the day my father passed away, the deal I made with myself, my body, my god, the Divine, kicked in. The deal was this: I promised that I would do everything in my power to see my father be as comfortable as possible, that he feel safe and secure, and most importantly, that I was not going to let him die alone.

And I did that.

For the three months that we all knew he was terminal with gall bladder cancer that had spread to his liver and chemo was not an option because his body was too weak from all the damage he suffered from his Chrons Disease, I held him and my mother together as best I could, despite the oncoming inevitibility.

I did that.

For the five years previous, I taught and fell in love with a single mother of two who had severe ADHD, severe anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and I did everything I humanly could to maintain that relationship.

I did that.

But after all that, my cup was overfull. I had no more room.

I was just not having it. I told off each one of them. I used my words. I’m very good at them – just ask my two exes. I cut them, and I cut them deep. And I cut them out of my lives. Eventually, over time, I tried my best at mending fences with the two exes.

Hit my thumb with the hammer most of the time, but I did what I could – especially when it came to my ex-girlfriend, Lindsey. I hated her timing, but I really couldn’t blame her anger. The stress of taking care of her and her family and my parents while my father was sick led my then-undiagnosed Major Depression and ADHD to take me down some very dark and toxic roads to find ways to deal, ways that my girlfriend could not forgive. Thankfully, three years later, all of that was addressed. Lindsey and I are still broken up, but now we’ve achieved understanding and forgiveness, and to be quite honest, it’s more than my old sorry ass deserves.

But Marce – Marce was a different story.

I just couldn’t. I am not going to get into the details of what went wrong. If you see me out somewhere and ask, maybe I’ll tell you, maybe I won’t. I’d venture to guess he’d say the same thing. He would try to reach out, but I never responded.

Marce and I were never close. We had a lot in common – but we were never close.

I first met Marce in freshman basketball. I remember him having some skill, but mostly I remember him being very uptight back then. I would have my little comments that I would say – to no one in particular – but Marce was pretty vocal about my comments.His face would pinch up and he would ask me why the hell I would say that, and then he would tell me to stop, because he found it annoying.

You see, I hate people like that. Uptight people who think they have the right to tell other people anything about the way they would talk. I always thought that was bad manners. I mean, come on – I have a pretty vast store of vocabulary in my head and I know how to speak English, but I also have my little jokes that I tell myself because I think they’re funny, but I would never criticize someone for talking a specific way – especially of they weren’t picking on me. Marce had no such distinction. So as soon as he criticized me for that, naturally, I did it more to annoy the hell out of him.

Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. I was told by one of the coaches that I was really bad at basketball, and they had to let me go – but I could still come to the practices and workout if I wanted. It was like being dumped by a girl, then having her tell me that we could still be friends.

I didn’t stay for practices very long.

The next time I met Marce, a whole year had passed, and we were already juniors. He had mellowed out some by then, enough to notice that we got along decently, and by chance, he started to hang out with some of the people I would hang out with. And we were able to spend enough time with each that we found we both had a lot in common.

We loved acting. We both shared a love of Mel Brooks’ classic comedies. We both really loved Val Kilmer’s Top Secret. We loved the ridiculousness of it, and we loved acting it out. We were both attention whores – each in our own way. We loved an audience and we played up to them – especially girls. We loved music – listening to it and playing it. We both shared a passionate love for U2, first and foremost, and then Sting, and then Grunge exploded, and we found our music.

grad pic

So we shared these commonalities and a creative chemistry, but we were never close. He never confided his fears and worries to me, nor I to him. My best friend was Carlos. We confided in each other. Marce and I, on the other hand, clicked in a different way.

Usually it was fun. We’d go on trips between classes, walking down the hallways or the breezeways, cutting up, acting like we were straight out of Monty Python or Top Secret, copying riffs from HBO’s The Kids in the Hall – “I’m crushing your head!!!”  — stuff like that.

NOTE: if you don’t know who The Kids in the Hall are, shame on you, when you’re done reading this, and you still find yourself on the interwebs, go to the YouTube, search The Kids in the Hall, watch, enjoy, repeat.

We were like Wayne and Garth, Beavis and Butthead, … I can’t think of any current “dude bromances” – #sorrymillenials.

I got him into acting – UIL One Act Play, we started an awesome UIL Improv team – and placed in our first events ever – we jammed, he played rhythm and I played drums. Marce was pure constant energy. He was fun. In retrospect, my Major Depression had a lot to do with how I reacted to him. Back then, I didn’t realize that my ADHD and Major Depression competed with each other, and that my energy levels came in waves – my highs were really high, and matched Marce’s toe-to-toe, but when my lows came and I needed to recharge silently his sometimes manic energy seemed too much and I got annoyed.

Of course, I knew none of this at the time. So the good aspects of me and Marce’s chemistry, would become the negatives at times. Creatively, we were each other’s Jordan and Pippin, switching roles depending on the situation. We sparked creatively and worked each other competitively to pick each other’s game up. But then my energy would give and the lethargy of my Major Depression would kick in, making me feel like he got the better of me creatively. My mood would sour, and I’d just pout out.

Added to that, my Major Depression made my lips heavy, so it kept me silent in high school. Any beefs I had – with Marce, or with others – I never addressed, leading a lot of people – even my friends, Marce, even my own family – to believe that I was a pushover. I never said anything to verbally defend myself. I merely held it all in and earned the reputation as having not even a pebble for a spine. I wouldn’t do what guys did – call him out or take the piss out of him. I just kept quiet, kept it in. That was not good. That became one emotional item in a growing storage box housed in an ever expanding warehouse of unaddressed issues.

But we kept on, inspiring each other creatively.

And then he introduced me to Ryan.

The first day we jammed together as a “band” – like all other significant firsts a person goes through in this life – was burned in my brain. I can recall every detail. This blue sports car pulls up – Camaro? I can’t remember … – and this skinny white kid with long blonde hair steps out, walks to the back of his car and brings his guitar and his amp.  Marce played rhythm. I played drums. And Ryan waited, counted out the measures and got a feel for the tempo, and shredded on lead guitar. It was fantastic.

That was the birth of the Triumvirate. The connection Marce and I had as musicians was near telepathic. We knew when to change. We knew when to crescendo, when to decrescendo, when to slow the tempo, when to speed it up. And on top of that, Ryan wailed, simply wailed.

trio Grad pic

We were connected.

Back then.